The Mummy of Matanzas

The mummy of Matanzas
The mummy of Matanzas

The mummy of Matanzas is one of the main attractions of the Palacio de Junco Provincial Museum

The mummy of Matanzas was found by chance in one of the underground galleries San Carlos Matanzas Cemetery, during a cleaning of niches, on June 19, 1965, by Dr. Ercilio Vento Canosa, forensic anthropologist and the official historian of the city Matanzas. At the time of its discovery the body remained intact, missing only the eyes. The body kept all the viscera, including the remains of the last meal. No reason explains how he had been so well conserved for more than a century in such poor conditions, as the passage where the remains were found was wet and had no necessary oxygenation.
Despite the commotion, the authorities decided to leave Mummy alone in the same cemetery where it had appeared. Until, 15 years later, a mentally disturbed desecrated the tomb; he stole his head, took it home and began hammering her. A neighbor saw and denounced the act. The destruction was important. Cultural and political leaders of the city were in agreement that had to protect the mummy, and restore as far as possible, given the “proprietary interest” that saw to it. But where to take it and fix it?
It was his discoverer, Ericio Vento, who took up the challenge. His scientific curiosity led him not only to wok intensely in the restoration of the head, but to deploy all their expertise to, with single track initials embroidered on clothes in tatters corpse (JPL), to discover to whom belonged the remains; where and how this woman lived, how she died and even what had been his last meal (meat with potatoes and vegetables).

Who is Hidden Behind the Mummy of Matanzas

The anthropological and chronological investigation concluded that the mummy of Matanzas was a woman of 56, of europoide race, died in 1872 without descendants. In the mummification process, it reduced 14 times the volume and 16 times the weight.
It later turned out that it was Josefa Petronila Margarita Ponce de León Herederos who was born in Guanabacoa in 1815, and died because of a severe respiratory infection in the Havana neighborhood of Monserrat in March 1872. Josefa had gone to live in the capital to marry a man named Francisco Andux, having spent his youth in Matanzas. The couple had no children. The body was one of many embalmed in the nineteenth century, from which was introduced by the jugular a solution of zinc chloride and aluminum sulfate. It was embalmed at the request of his family, which paid the sum of one thousand pesos in gold for transportation by ship to Matanzas. Mummification was fashionable among the upper classes of the nineteenth Cuba. Treatment outcomes were generally short-lived. The key that brought involuntarily Josefa to history was the additional compound used by his embalmer, despite being banned for being poisonous: the dichloride mercury.
The dedication of the doctor in the rebuilding of the shattered head reached its highest point precisely on the scalp. Using a hairdresser, Vento took her days to give a capillary implantation all the way, “hair by hair”. The operation lasted five years.
For more than two decades Vento Canosa protected the mummy at home. In 2005, at the end of the last phase of the restoration, he decided to give it to the museum, where it logically should be. Soon photocopies of her baptismal, marriage and death certificates, photographs of the finding, the restoration process, and a small display case with some of the mummified body organs.
The remains of Josefa showed in the museum received more than 70,000 visits during the first month of your display. The Mummy Hall is not like the others. It has soft lighting, mauve curtains and average temperature of 19 to 20 degrees Celsius, since for that an air conditioner is turned 12 hours. Otherwise, this piece would suffer the brunt of climate and biological agents, among others.

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